Manchester & Rochdale

Canals and railways at the heart of the industrial revolution

I lived in Manchester for seven years, mainly as a student, though also for two terms as a teacher in nearby Chadderton, only moving away for a further year of study, after which I hoped to return. But I failed to find a job in the area and ended up moving down to Bracknell, where there was work and a housing corporation flat.

Manchester played an important part in my life. Of course there were the lectures and stuff, but more important were the student societies and student politics, and political involvement outside the university and the experience of the city itself. In my first year I walked to college through the slums of Hulme and later watched as they were demolished, leaving empty acres with the occasional church or pub still standing, earth banks around the edges to keep the travellers out – and went with other students to defend those travellers who did get in from eviction. By the time I left I’d been in many of the new modern slums that replaced them, interviewing there and on other council estates for surveys by the social sciences department.

Rochdale Canal, Manchester

Although I didn’t get married in Manchester, it was to a fellow student I met there, and we spent our honeymoon in a Manchester flat, getting out on a couple of day trips to the Lake District and the Derbyshire hills. And, it being the sixties I took part in the occupation of the university offices and various other protests about education, Vietnam and more. A little of which I remember, along with hazy memories of jazz clubs, pubs, concerts, markets and more in the city some fifty years ago.

What I don’t have is photographs, or very few of them. I had a camera, but couldn’t afford to use it scraping by most years on a student grant meant to only last the three short terms; though things got a little easier as a post-grad on around £10 a week. I hadn’t learnt until the year after I left the city how to save money by doing my own developing and printing and loading cassettes from bulk film, and my camera was in a poor state, having never recovered from spending some time at the bottom of the lake at Versailles in 1966 on my first trip abroad.

Rochdale Town Hall
Since then, my visits to Manchester have been short and far between – mainly the occasional conference in the area, with little time to see much of the city. And in May this year we were on our way to a conference too, but travelled early to give ourselves time for an afternoon walk. We went along the canal, dirty and forgotten when we lived in the city, but now a popular recreational area, stopping for a drink at a canalside pub before crossing into Salford to walk back by the Irwell before catching our bus from Shude Hill. The Irwell looks rather different – back in the 60s it always looked as if you could walk on it by the Cathedral, now it seems rather clean and clear. And on our way back down south we stopped off for and hour at the People’s History Museum, though this really needed much longer visit.

Co-operative stamps on foil made at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum

The event we were attending took us to Rochdale on the Saturday morning, and after a short guided tour which took us to the Town Hall and the Toad Lane museum where the Co-operative movement started I had a couple of free hours and walked around following a town trail leaflet on my own – though my walk ended at a pub not mentioned on it.

Bull Brow in the town centre



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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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